Downsizing? Demand for Your Items May be Low

Selling or donating items you have accumulated for years not as easy

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

downsizingIf you’re downsizing your household or that of your parents, you may be unpleasantly surprised at the low demand for antiques. Those treasured pieces of furniture are likely worth much more emotionally than literally.

“It’s extremely common for our clients, who are primarily seniors or family members working with seniors, to believe that their items have value beyond their market value,” said Karen Menachof, owner of Caring Transitions in Rochester. The company provides downsizing assistance to older adults who are moving.

“They hope that they’ll be able to sell them with ease,” Menachof said. “There’s not the value they had hoped for in the open market. There are exceptions, but there are lot of antiques and less interest in them.”

The antiques market has dropped off as more younger people have more modern tastes and lean toward furniture that’s smaller and lighter. That fits better with a generation more prone to moving and living in an apartment.

Many antiques don’t fit well into modern life, such as huge china cabinets.

Young people aren’t as interested in accumulating expansive sets of fine china as previous generations, so a china cabinet isn’t necessary. A secretary desk doesn’t work as well with a laptop (and the whole point of a laptop is to use it in places other than a desk).

Younger people are more interested in experiences — such as travel, dining out and adventuresome activities — than accumulating things to express themselves and enjoy life.

Passing items on to family members isn’t a snap, either. The families of downsizers aren’t as interested in antiques as in previous generations. Part of the reason is that their adult children already have established their household and any adult grandchildren are still too mobile to want to face the possibility of hauling a dining room table and 10 chairs across the country.

As Menachof helps people downsize, she guides them through a number of steps for disposing of good items they can no longer keep. If a family member doesn’t want it, consider selling. A person with many things could find an auction an easy way to sell items since people seeking antiques often visit auctions.

Menachof said that selling online may help, but interest in eBay has fallen off in recent years. Craigslist and Facebook also offer sales opportunities, but sellers should be careful about advertising goods since strangers will come to their homes. Menachof offers an online auction platform where her company facilitates the pick-up.

An estate sale on site may lighten the load.

If the items aren’t salable, donating to a family who could use them fills a need. Sites such as Freecycle.org offer an easy way to offer items people no longer want. It’s free to post items that are free to anyone who wants them.

Ask before dropping off items at a charity or thrift store. Some cannot take large items or may be overstocked with a particular type of item.

“Donation is harder than imaginable,” Menachoff cautioned. “It’s not fast and without effort. It’s got to be coordinated and scheduled. There are lots of restrictions. Some want things boxed; others don’t. Things have to be sorted. You can’t just call Goodwill and have them come over. They’re not an on-demand provider.”

Karen Jones, professional organizer in the Rochester area, encourages clients to keep one piece of their china, for example, to repurpose after they move, such as a platter as a serving tray. They sometimes take photos so they can preserve the memory of special items before they’re gone.

“Sometimes, even though it’s hard for them to get rid of their items, it helps if it goes to someone who needs it,” Jones said.

She said that items from the ‘50s and ‘60s are starting to become more popular, but older items just don’t seem to hold much value anymore.

Debra Kostiw, owner of Home Helpers, recommends a professional estate sale company for a serious downsize operation.

“Often when a parent has to move unexpectedly or passes away, the family is overwhelmed with the pressure,” Kostiw said. “Many families live far away and cannot take time off from work to devote time to these tasks. There is nothing wrong with reaching out for help.”

If none of the above channels work, recycling at least spares space at the landfill.